Puerto Madryn

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February 26th 2014
Published: February 27th 2014
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Leaving our beautiful digs in El Calafate, we headed back to the airport to our next destination - Puerto Madryn. Flying into Trelew, we grabbed a shuttle to Puerto Madryn about an hour away.

Staying at a hostel this time, we had no real expectations and it ended up being pretty good. Despite the crazy amount of noise at night, mostly from a nearby nightclub and cars that were unnecessarily drag racing literally all night, the hostel was great. One of the best features was that we had access to a nice giant shared kitchen to use. We were excited to go to the grocery store to gather our ingredients and cook every night - something that would be a chore at home!

There wasn't a whole lot to do in town other than walk around the pier and beach area so we booked a couple of tours to the surrounding coastal areas of Peninsula Valdez and Punta Tombo. Our first tour was going out to the Peninsula Valdez. That morning we saw a bus out in front of the hostel from our room and headed down to the lobby to go but when we got there the bus was gone... vouchers in hand, we stopped at the front desk - where did our bus go?! Turns out that it wasn't our group, and our tour ended up only being us and two others, a Swiss and an American who were traveling together from Buenos Aires, and we were taking a Ford Fiesta.

We all crammed into the mini car and started on our road trip. The road along the peninsula was a little crazy, all gravel with pot holes that our car could literally fit inside, our tour guide fish tailed all over the place passing by other cars on the road. We luckily had no trouble compared to an English couple we talked to the next day - the car they took to the peninsula ended up with 2 flats and they passed by a pretty bad accident. Our trusty driver swerved around like a pro rally car driver all the while talking up a storm about history, wildlife, and showing us pictures from his laminated book of what to keep an eye out for. We stopped at several locations on our road trip to check out the local wildlife including Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, and sea lions. There were other common animals that we had seen around Argentina as well including guanacos, rheas (an ostrich like bird), and these suicidal birds that wait by the side of the road and then walk in front of the car as soon as it goes to pass by. Lastly we headed to a town, Puerto Piramides that is normally a stop to see whales but unfortunately we missed the whale season by a couple of months. The town has only 500 inhabitants and is the only town on Peninsula Valdez, we walked along the beach and hung out in the sun for a little while before hitting the road back to Puerto Madryn.

Interestingly enough our tour guide explained to us that there is a very small unemployment rate in Puerto Madryn and that it is not due to a lack of jobs that some people do not work but rather that they are just being lazy. He told us that university is free in town and that there are three specialties you can enroll in - tourism, fishery engineering, and marine biology, three industries that are very important to the local economy. These programs are complete with internships and almost guarantee their employment after graduation.

The next day we hung out around town, worked on our sunburns a little bit by the beach and plotted what we should make for dinner that night. We headed to the grocery store to buy our ingredients and as the man was weighing our vegetables, he started to chat us up. "Where are you from?" "Canada." He looks at Binnson suspiciously, "But originally?" "Yes, Canada. Originally." The vegetable weigher was not satisfied with this answer, he furrowed his brows and continued to look at Binnson. "But, ORIGINALLLLLY?!" "I am Chinese, if that's what you are wondering?" The weigher now satisfied, "Ne Hao!" Binnson starts laughing, "hen hao, you speak Chinese?" The guy then picks up the bananas, and with his Spanish accent announces "xiang jiao" then he points across the way at the apples and says "Ping guo". He told us a Chinese friend of his was teaching him some words. We were both pretty impressed, Binnson actually speaks Cantonese but I have taken some Mandarin lessons in school so between the two of us we could understand him pretty well. Who knew that instead of trying to learn Spanish, we could have just been speaking Chinese?! Xie xie!

Our next tour was to Punta Tombo, home of the largest penguin rookery outside of Antarctica. First stop though was in Rawson, where we took off on a boat to go dolphin watching. There are some really unique looking dolphins in this area unlike any I had ever seen before, they were really small and black and white colored. We saw quite a few as they swam around and under the boat but they were very tricky to take a photo of so we really didn't get any good ones. On the way to the penguins our new guide explained to us that because it is a completely natural habitat that they still live amongst their predators and we actually did end up seeing a couple of dead penguins too 😞. When we first started the boardwalk circuit set up there, EVERYONE stopped at the first site of a penguin to take pictures, our guide laughed at us and told us that we were literally going to see a million penguins today so to keep on moving. We had so much fun watching the penguins waddle around, sometimes crossing the paths making for tons of good photo ops, I probably took 300 pictures while I was there - going back through them they all start to look the same.

We had a special treat on our way out of the rookery. Us and the English couple that I mentioned before were dragging behind taking extra photos away from the group when a penguin started motoring towards us. We stood there and watched him for a little bit hoping to get another crossing picture when the penguin jumped up on to the boardwalk. The park ranger asked us to stay back and wait for him to cross but the penguin decided that he wanted to go for a cruise and started to walk along the boardwalk instead of crossing back to his friends. The ranger gave us the go ahead and we walked beside the boardwalk with the penguin for a good 12 minutes. He was personally escorting us back to our car. Binnson was videoing the whole thing on his phone but accidentally switched it into slow motion making our cute 12 minute journey to the car the slowest 51 minute video that you have never tried to watch.

After we left the rookery, we had one last stop to make in Gaiman. This town is Welsh and some of the people in our group were going to have tea at the tea house. We personally didn't bother but instead walked around and hung out in the principle plaza. Our guide was quite funny trying to teach a bunch of people how to drink mate (an Argentine traditional drink), we had drank it a few times since we had gotten here, mainly on tours when guides pulled it out, but never had a lecture regarding the proper etiquette and how to turn down mate. Quite simply you just say, gracias. He started swearing about people who make faces or put up their hands or shake their heads, telling us that basically translates into a big "F*$% you".

The next day we flew back to Buenos Aires in preparation for our flight home. With one last night, Binnson needed to spend the rest of our pesos and decided to have one last slab of Argentine beef. We went for a nice long walk around the Palermo area which we didn't head into the first week when we arrived. There was a big street festival happening with performers, music, street meats, and kids running around with something that may have been silly string or whip cream... or something but they were spraying everyone who walked by. It was fun to hang out, people watch, and dodge the crazy children for a little bit but it was also getting quite late (damn 10pm dinners), and like usual we had walked way too far, it was time to say good bye to Argentina.

Thank you for joining us on this adventure 😊

Additional photos below
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27th February 2014

Awesome trip but not going to lie when I say that I am glad you are home. Stories like these will be kept for years in your hearts and will be treasured for years to come. You have shown Argentina in a great light :)
28th February 2014
Magellanic penguins @ Valdez

Well done on your Argentinian adventure...a diverse collection of locales...obviously embraced and enjoyed as shown in your photos and reflections. And just think...your memories have been preserved in your blogs...always fresh and alive. Best wishes for your forthcoming nuptuals. Then time to plan your next adventure!

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